THE fact that you’re reading a motorcycle review means it’s unlikely that this needs explaining, but here goes anyway: A naked bike lies somewhere between a sport bike and a standard bike, not as hardcore (and as covered up with fairings, hence its name) as the former but isn’t as boring as the latter either. BMW’s F800 R, on which I had recently taken a quick blast both in and out of the Metro, is a sterling example of a naked.
Introduced in 2009 and updated last year, the present F800 R (Priced at P765,000 and sold at Autohaus BMW in Libis, Quezon City) takes off from the F800 S—also a naked—and the nearly identical F800 ST, which was the fully faired touring version. Both older bikes, which debuted in 2006, were BMW’s attempt at infusing stylish looks to its street models, and also marked the company’s tentative shift away from boxer twins. The 800ccs in these bikes’ name are all twins, but instead of the cylinders being lined up opposite one another they’ve become more intimate as they sit side by side. The result of such a setup, besides modernity, is a smoother, less vibrate-y operation.
That said, this is still a parallel twin cylinder, which means it isn’t as silken (nor as sonorous) as an inline four—like that packed within BMW’s super sport bike, the sublime S1000 RR.
The liquid-cooled, four-valve-per-pot 800cc engine—well, 798cc, to be precise—propelling the F800 R initially seems “lazy,” meaning it’s slower revving than the S1000 RR’s four-pot. But actually, it’s quite torque-rich—86 Newton-meter at 6,000rpm—right from the off. So, in first gear, twist the throttle ever so slightly and the bike takes off quite briskly but very quietly. First gear is low though, so shift to second as soon as you can. Fact is, the prodigious torque lets you stay in second in tight traffic. At higher speeds, there’s very little need to shift down a gear to pass “cagers” driving what they think are fast cars—that’s torque at work. Horsepower, while nothing crazy at 87, is adequate and is reached at an equally sane 8,000 revs. “Lazy” is a relative term here.
Typical to a modern BMW motorrad (and I’m talking at least one or two model generations back), the F800 R’s front brake feels too sensitive at first, biting hard at a slight pull of the lever—definitely a one-finger affair. A couple of minutes’ worth of riding recalibrates your senses though, and braking becomes less amateurish. Also typical to modern BMW bikes are the F800 R’s creamy shifting, with the lever rowing through any of the six gears chosen deliberately but smoothly; the intuitive layout of controls and legibility of meters, especially the info displayed on the LCD screen (the gear indicator is thankfully huge); and the utter ease at which all the bike’s functions can be used or accessed.
The cockpit of the F800 R is equally accommodating. The high handlebar combines with slightly forward foot pegs and a lofty saddle to create an upright seating position. This means great visibility in traffic, the pleasant absence of wrist and/or back pains, and a somewhat initially disconcerting feeling when cornering as you lean in (the lean angle seems more pronounced because you sit higher off the ground). True, the bike’s high stance may mean some degree of difficulty for shorter riders—at five-foot-10 on riding boots I still have to stretch a bit to keep both my feet planted flat at traffic lights—but still the F800 R isn’t what an experienced rider might consider as cumbersome. Not by a wide margin.
And to think the bike looks the cool naked part, too. All right, the F800 R is no porno star in the same vein as Italian bikes are, but thankfully it isn’t as faddish as the Japanese rides, which seem to be inspired by alien robots in manga comics. What the F800 R is is tasteful, with styling that does not yell but instead is marked by functional-looking lines and an industrial design flavor. It still hints of the old F800 twin, particularly in the rear bodywork, but the awkward touches have gone. BMW motorrads’ signature unequal-sized headlamps, set so exposed and unadorned in the F800 R, look especially awesome below the minimalist cowl above them.
Oh, on the open stretches of the NLEX, at speeds, you’d wish that this piece of plastic bodywork was bigger, and a windscreen would be welcome, too. Because there you get buffeted—quite strongly—by the winds. Crouching helps a little but there really is nowhere to hide. Certainly though, this just takes some getting used to.
Besides, this is quite the point of riding naked; that bugs splat on your helmet thing and coming all over yourself at the rush of speed—all while looking good doing so. No, actually, this is the point of motorcycling.